The Nashville Predators had an extremely quiet trade deadline, mostly due to David Poile’s change in mindset, caused by the team’s sudden resurgence in the standings.

They did add Erik Gudbranson, a 29 year old veteran defenseman, in exchange for Brandon Fortunato and a 7th round pick in 2023, but he’s unlikely to make a significant difference on this Preds team in their final 13 games.

Other than that, it was all quiet on Broadway for the Nashville Predators and David Poile.

The Preds were sure-fire sellers at the deadline in early March, back when they were at the bottom of the standings. But then they won 12 of their next 15 games, flying up to 4th in the Central Division, now a full six points clear of the Dallas Stars.

Perhaps the biggest name not traded by the Preds at the deadline was defenseman Mattias Ekholm.

Mattias Ekholm not moved, David Poile explains

Among the most discussed Preds skaters on the trade block was 30-year-old defenseman Mattias Ekholm. He was mentioned most frequently by all the national talking heads, and was at one point the #1 name on the top of TSN’s trade bait list.

Ekholm is an excellent two-way defenseman on a cheap contract. His $3.75 million annual cap hit is a bargain and he’s signed through next year (2022). It would have made sense to sell Ekholm for future assets if they were preparing for a rebuild.

But Poile said on Monday that selling wasn’t in his plans.

“In my heart, I was not open to [selling] because of how I believed in this team and wanted to give them a chance. But as a manager, I was taking calls, and I was listening, because I think that’s free, and why wouldn’t I?”

But then Poile added: “I had pretty well made up my mind a little while ago based on how things were going that it would have to be something that would be really different than anything that I had heard or had been brought up to me to make me want to change where we are right now.”

And so Mattias Ekholm stays.

Which begs the question: what is Ekholm’s future in Nashville, and how does David Poile plan on addressing that with the Seattle expansion draft coming up?

His answer to that was interesting and can be interpreted one of two ways.

Two ways to interpret Poile’s comments on Mattias Ekholm

When asked directly about Mattias Ekholm, David Poile was cagey about his value in trade talks. Rumors were that Poile was asking for a 1st round pick, a top prospect, and “something else” which was a high price to pay for most teams.

Poile didn’t confirm or deny that valuation, but he did address how the Preds plan on handling the expansion draft.

“I don’t want to go into too many details,” Poile said on Monday, “but in terms of expansion, we have that covered. I’m not losing Mattias Ekholm in expansion, if that’s what you’re asking. I’ve got that covered. Again, Mattias has been a good player for us. His name got thrown out there a lot in trade baits and different things but, I mean, my next conversation with Mattias will be after this year about how he thinks he fits into the future of this hockey club and whether he would like to be here longer, not whether we want to trade him.”

You can interpret this one of two ways, I think.

One, and how most people interpreted it, is that Mattias Ekholm would be protected in the expansion draft. The Preds can protect seven forwards plus three defenseman, or they can just select eight skaters. It’s not clear which direction they would go here, but if they plan on keeping Ekholm along with Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, and Dante Fabbro, they would have to go eight skaters.

The other way to interpret this comment is that while Poile wouldn’t be losing Ekholm in the expansion draft, he still might trade him away or find some other value for him. Not losing Ekholm in expansion does not mean Ekholm is on the team in 2021-22.

“I’m not losing Mattias Ekholm in expansion” could still be a true statement if Mattias Ekholm is traded for assets before the draft, or even after the draft. Also, the suggestion at the end of his comments about a contract extension are nothing new. Poile almost always says something to the effect of “we would love to discuss Player X’s future in Nashville over the summer” so it’s hardly a promise of an extension.

In the end, I think David Poile realized he wasn’t going to get full value (whatever that is) if he dealt Mattias Ekholm in season. But he might be able to get even more for Ekholm if he waits til all 31 teams have a crack at him. Throw in the Seattle expansion draft, of which Ekholm will be protected from apparently, and you have a future for Mattias Ekholm that is even more cloudy.

— Featured image via Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports —
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